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IDPs in worst flood-hit areas struggle to cope

Matchi, who suffers from a skin disease caused by long-term exposure to floodwater, stands in the centre of a group of displaced children.
(Adnan Sipra/IRIN)

Matchi, 7, stares glumly at an aid agency vehicle as it rumbles along a dirt and gravel track near Manchar Lake, in the Dadu district of Sindh. The makeshift road is lined on both sides, for as far as the eye can see, by row upon row of temporary thatch and straw shelters which are framed against a stark backdrop of what used to be thriving paddy fields.

Now, the fields have been flooded by heavy tropical rains and the devastating Cyclone Yemyin at the end of June which also left more than 400 people dead and adversely affected the lives of more than 2.5 million people in Sindh and Balochistan provinces in southern Pakistan, according to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

Matchi has developed a severe skin disorder after almost two months of exposure to floodwater typically six or seven feet deep over hundreds of square kilometres in southern Pakistan. Her mother - a frail, emaciated woman - weeps as she explains that her child has been unable to get any medical help.

According to the UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF), the rains and cyclone displaced more than 377,000 people in Sindh and neighbouring Balochistan. Dadu district in Sindh and Jhal Magsi district in Balochistan are the worst-affected areas, aid workers say.

Displacement

In Balochistan alone, more than 115,000 homes were either completely damaged or partially damaged, according to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA). In addition, it reported that more than 320,000 hectares of crops or orchards were destroyed and that the majority of the affected population had lost livestock, including farm animals and poultry.

Tens of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) now live in makeshift shelters, or in tents provided by aid agencies.


Photo: Adnan Sipra/IRIN
An old man and his sick children stand before flooded paddy fields


Those less fortunate simply sleep in the open on higher ground, along main roads or wherever they have been able to find safe haven. Temperatures, when it is not raining, are consistently around 42 or 43 degrees centigrade, causing more problems for a beleaguered IDP population.

Food for IDPs, anti-malaria nets, fumigation and access to safe drinking water are a priority in the affected areas, the NDMA said.

"These people need all the help we can give them," Ghulam Nabi Rustamani, the general secretary of Sujag Sansar Organisation (SSO), told IRIN. SSO is a local non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Dadu district, about 350km northwest of Karachi. It has been providing tents, food supplies, medicines and other aid across the district.

"People like this child," Rustamani said, pointing at Matchi, "are suffering from skin diseases while diarrhoea is rampant here, snake bites are common and the overall health situation is far worse than has been reported."

Need for drinking water

In the Dadu sub-district of KN Shah, access to drinking water is the biggest problem locals face. World Health Organisation teams who visited Dadu and Kamber districts in Sindh said only 20-30 percent of the 450,000 people affected by floods there had access to safe drinking water.


Photo: Adnan Sipra/IRIN
Children in the flooded sub-district of KN Shah, in Dadu district, try to turn a boat the right way up, unmindful of the swelling waters behind them

"This water has caused gastrointestinal problems," Mukhtar Chandio, a local journalist who has been actively supporting the SSO, said. "Drinking water is not available... Dadu is almost totally destroyed so these poor people have to wade through waist-deep water for miles before they can get access to any kind of help."

A UNICEF assessment soon after the storms struck said that several hundred thousand children under the age of five were particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases caused by polluted water and a lack of sanitation.

In Qamber, a small town just half an hour's drive from Larkana, a district north of Dadu, Habiba wails uncontrollably. Displaced from a submerged village not far away, she stares at her eight-month-old grandson whose head lolls around loosely in his weeping mother's arms.

"We have been in this school for the past two months and these foreign doctors come once a week to just look at us," Habiba shouted in Sindhi. Schools across flood-affected areas have become semi-permanent shelters for IDPs with nowhere to go. Habiba’s houses close to 300 people. "Where is the medical help we need?"

as/ar/ed


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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